Tuesday Ten: 050: The Female of the Species

Today marks the 50th Tuesday Ten since I started doing these back in March 2007. And while I thought I might run out of ideas quite quickly for subjects for this, somehow they just keep flowing.


This week's is inspired by Noel Gallagher's lumpen comments about the greatest rock bands – with one of the criteria being "no women". To be fair, it's hardly an unexpected attitude. Oasis' music is so rooted in the past that it is not surprising to see attitudes equally rooted in the past. And so, here is my listing of ten female-fronted (or indeed, in some cases, all-female) bands that are worthy of attention.

Perhaps the ultimate female-fronted band, led by Deborah Harry, they were trailblazers in the US New Wave scene of the late-70s, sold records by the million, were never afraid to experiment – somehow successfully including elements of reggae and even rap music way ahead of many others. Indeed, their influence on bands since is probably incalculable and while I can't say I cared much for the material post-reformation in the late 90s, their early material remains peerless.


Another blast from the past, perhaps – one of the only female-fronted bands that I can recall being prominently involved in the grunge movement. Quite why they were lumped in with the grunge movement I've never really been sure – in the main they were more "metal" than grunge. Still, at points they were ace, whatever the genre – in particular on the album Bricks Are Heavy, and while the single Pretend We're Dead got them a lot of attention, it was Shitlist that summed up their sneering, furious attitude best. Their confrontational attitude got them into trouble more than once, too, including the infamous used-tampon-throwing incident at Reading '92, nudity on The Word…

Talking of metal bands, since Angela Gossow joined Arch Enemy as frontwoman in 2001, they have remained one of the only big-selling extreme metal bands featuring a female singer. She can growl with the best of them, too. And ok, so they have become a parody of their former selves now, with them simply rehashing their most successful songs over and over, just for a while this band were fucking fantastic – around the time of Anthems of Rebellion, in fact…

A fixture over the years in the metal press, both in these bands and in her following project My Ruin, Tarrie B has been a rare prominent female voice in the metal world for a long while now. I'm not a fan whatsoever of her latest stuff, however the old stuff in her first band (Manhole were renamed Tura Satana) rocks like a bastard.

Similarly a fixture in the metal press for a while was Aimee Echo, frontwoman of theSTART – although her coverage in the likes of Kerrang! was more during her time as frontwoman of Human Waste Project, another band that flickered brightly for a short while and then disbanded – and in some respects theSTART have been blazing a trail for a new-wave revival, and appear to have had some success doing so.

One of the more distinctive female-fronted bands of recent times have been The Dresden Dolls, a definantly different band who have mixed the disparate ideas of cabaret, punk, blues, rock and god knows what else to create a band who have steadily built up a bigger and bigger fanbase over recent years. Amanda Palmer's vocal delivery switches easily between playful, spiteful and insular – often all in the same song – and the somewhat personal lyrics often make it uncomfortable listening.

Talking of distinctive female-fronted bands, Alison Goldfrapp's band have proved to be adept at changing their style with each album, and providing a strong visual image for both promotion and live performance purposes. Broadly an electronic pop act, her previous work with Orbital, Tricky and Add N to (X) barely hinted at what was to follow – sweeping, cinematic ballads, sexually-charged electro-pop and now more laid-back, summery folk-influenced pop. Somehow, it all still sounds the work of one band.

Another band to change their spots somewhat over time were this lot, starting out as a quasi-shoegazing band and returning at the end of the 90s (after a brief hiatus) as a heavily electronic, industrial-influenced behemoth that bore little relation to the earlier material. The constants all the way were Dean Garcia (behind most of the music, as I recall), and then Toni Halliday, the vocalist, whose icy, detached delivery matched the mood of their music perfectly.

Queen Adreena were (are?) one of the most striking bands I've ever seen live. Katie Jane Garside is an unpredictable character, often singing in little more than a whisper before letting loose with a primal scream out of the blue. Much of the music is unusual alt-rock, full of jagged guitars and stomping drums with Katie-Jane's vocals floating on top. Not to everyone's tastes, this lot, but well worth a look live at least – that is, if they choose to play live again.

Last band on the list – a band that seem to exist outside of various trends in the industrial/goth scene, choosing to release material when they see fit (their imminent new album, Two Headed Monster, is their first new studio album in over five years), and sticking to an unusual style that while clearly taking influences from a number of locations, still could only be the sound of this band. Rarely picking up too much of a tempo, Collide make a sensual, slow-burning brand of gothic-tinged electronic rock that Karin's vocals match perfectly, despite often not working at the same tempo as the music. Somehow still little more than an "underground" band, greater success is surely deserved this time around.

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